International trade makes people think of boatloads of grain, tankers of oil and lots of money changing hands. But trade also involves surprisingly high levels of environmental conservation.

A report from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) in May shows how trade agreements help the United States and partner nations ensure that raw materials and manufactured goods can be traded without trashing the environment.

As forests, wildlife, fish stocks and other resources fall victim to illegal profiteers worldwide, it is clear that “environmental challenges are global in nature and require an international response,” the report says.

Numerous provisions in free-trade agreements between the United States and its partners focus on environmental protections. The United States also provides financial and technical aid to help partners set up stronger regulatory and enforcement mechanisms to protect natural resources.

Central America’s keel-billed toucan is a colorful representative of the region’s rich biodiversity, which trade agreements work to protect. (Shutterstock/Eduardo Rivero)

Standing up for the Environment, the May USTR report, offers numbers on planet-friendly actions growing from a select group of trade agreements in recent years. The numbers are drawn from bilateral agreements between the United States and Oman, Morocco, Chile and Peru. Steps toward environmental progress resulting from the Dominican Republic–Central America Free Trade Agreement also are included in the count.

These things are happening because of free-trade agreements:

82,051 people receive training in natural resource management and/or biodiversity conservation with assistance from the U.S. government.

Trade agreements help promote sustainable tourism in Central America, protecting resources and providing local jobs. (Shutterstock/CREATISTA)

11,839 people gain increased economic benefits from sustainable natural resource management and conservation.

714 policies, laws and regulations promote sustainable natural resource management and conservation.

11,260,000 people learn from public awareness campaigns on biodiversity and endangered species conservation.

37,350 farmers train in environmentally friendly agricultural practices.

30,738,596 hectares come under improved natural resource management.

Some other achievements were noted in the report:

Chile has established an environmental ministry, environmental enforcement, oversight bodies and environmental tribunals just since 2010.

In Central America, farmers are adopting more sustainable growing practices for coffee and cacao, important cash crops. The Earth-friendly farming methods also provide better habitat for about 200 species, some endangered.